Has a false accusation of racism ever caused significant harm to anyone in the US?

In this thread, we were discussing (among other things) false accusations of racism, and how (supposedly) they are common and harmful. So I challenged on the harmful bit, asking the question “Has a false accusation of racism ever caused significant harm to anyone in the US?”.

So far, the best (and only) real answer I got were folks like Al Campanis and Paula Deen. The only problem is that these folks actually said racist things.

So I’m asking in GD. I recognize that the answer is probably “yes”, I just can’t for the life of me think of anyone, public figure or not (recognizing that non-public stories would be much harder to find), who has actually suffered a significant amount due to a false accusation of racism.

Anyone have any real stories out there?

How were the Paula Deen accusations false? The story as reported was clear and pretty much the truth.

Al Campanis was not fired from his job with the Dodgers for the generic crime of “being a racist,” he was fired for disgracing his employer with racist comments on national television. His statements absolutely WERE racist, even if Campanis, in his heart, really wasn’t. Baseball is a business built on PR, and not shaming your employer on Nightline was part of his job and he failed. C’est la vie.

I suspect examples do exist but they will generally be of people not famous enough for us to know about.

Someone might trot out the “niggardly” person. Honestly, I don’t remember the story well enough to know if it would be a valid example (and can’t look it up right now).

Well, there was the famous case some years back when an aide to the mayor of DC used the word “niggardly” in a meeting and the resulting outcry and accusations of racism led the guy to resign (presumably under pressure).

The Duke lacrosse team incident was of course about a fake rape charge, but it was inflamed by accusations of racism.

David Howard unintentionally created a pretty big stir awhile back.

Editor’s note: Three-peat!!! And I get extra credits for providing the link.

There is theniggardly incidentby David Howard in 1999.

He probably should have been more careful in his choice of words, but I don’t think he was racist.

ETA: damn, typed too slow and got triple ninja’d

The one that comes to mind with the greatest amount of harm would be the Tawana Brawley case. I don’t know how much it cost the county but I’m sure the expense was considerable. Two professionals lost their jobs. See Wikipedia for a more thorough explanation.

The greatest damage is unmeasurable and that would be the amount of fear and mistrust it generated in communities.

I was also going to cite “niggardly” but this example is far better.

Your entry doesn’t at all show someone who was harmed by the accusation against him. In fact, the charges were eventually dropped and Mr. Jacobowitz suffered no consequences whatsoever, let alone anything that could reasonably be called “significant harm”.

What he went through doesn’t constitute “harm” to you?

His roommate was railroaded by the University of Pennsylvania that should have been shuttered and burned.

Seems a tad extreme. We’re not talking Penn State, after all.

FTR, “niggard” is a much older word in English than “nigger” and is etymologically unrelated. Furthermore, it does not even evoke any invidious black stereotype – rather, to be called “niggardly” would contradict application of the “nigger rich” stereotype (spending money carelessly on lavish display).

I believe being dragged through all that administrative procedure, and spending a lot of money on lawyers, is “significant harm”.

I came in to mention David Howard, but see that I’m not the first.

His roommate agreed to a bargain because he felt his family might not be able to afford an attorney to help him fight the charges. This resulted in “probation”. Which just means that if he does nothing else wrong, he won’t face anymore consequences. So again, this doesn’t even come close to “harm”, let alone “significant harm”.

I don’t agree with your characterization, especially since you are applying some quantifiable things that you can’t show are true for the case you cited. As far as I know, there was no arduous administrative procedure that Mr. Jacobowitz was subjected to and his attorney’s fees were not “a lot of money”. AFAIK, Mr. Jacobowitz incurred less than $100 in fees, in fact. Unless you can convince me (and everyone else reading who agrees with me) otherwise, your example fails at answering the OP.

I would apply the same reasoning to the case of Jimmy the Greek. Yes, he might have been “praising” blacks as naturally (or selectively-bred by slaveowners) superior athletes; but any American with an ounce of sense should have noticed early in life that in this society, saying blacks have a special talent for sports, music, dance, etc., always has been a backhanded way of saying that’s all they’re good for, and they should let the white man handle the serious grown-up things like government and business and the professions.

Where did you get the $100 figure?

Penn paid approximately $10,000 to Jacobowitz’s lawyer, Edward Rubenstone, to cover a portion of the legal fees, when it settled Jacobowitz’s $50,000 lawsuit filed in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas in February 1996. The complaint alleged fees and costs in excess of $9000.

Can you explain the discrepancy?